The authors tested the hypothesis that obese individuals experience greater reward from food consumption (consummatory food reward) and anticipated consumption (anticipatory food reward) than lean individuals using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with 33 adolescent girls (mean age = 15.7, SD = 0.9). Obese relative to lean adolescent girls showed greater activation bilaterally in the gustatory cortex (anterior and mid insula, frontal operculum) and in somatosensory regions (parietal operculum and Rolandic operculum) in response to anticipated intake of chocolate milkshake (vs. a tasteless solution) and to actual consumption of milkshake (vs. a tasteless solution); these brain regions encode the sensory and hedonic aspects of food. However, obese relative to lean adolescent girls also showed decreased activation in the caudate nucleus in response to consumption of milkshake versus a tasteless solution, potentially because they have reduced dopamine receptor availability. Results suggest that individuals who show greater activation in the gustatory cortex and somatosensory regions in response to anticipation and consumption of food, but who show weaker activation in the striatum during food intake, may be at risk for overeating and consequent weight gain.
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